Today John Wall turns 22, a young age for a player who seems much older. In just two years in the NBA he’s transitioned from a bonafide No. 1 pick to a point guard saddled by a horrid team and newfound doubts over his ability to shake Washington from its mediocre moorings. His story should not be strange if you regularly read Dime, where his features in issues 66 (“The Breakout Issue”) and 70 (“Great Expectations”) mirrored that evolution.
It isn’t the case that anyone is doubting Wall’s physical gifts or his toughness, after averaging more than 36 minutes per in every single Washington game last season. It’s that when you’re judged by what have you done me lately, there has to be a next step beyond the jaw-dropping athleticism. In his sophomore season, his numbers across the board – his points, rebounds, assists – stayed relatively the same, while we saw minor improvements in his shooting percentage. By whatever metric you want, we desire across-the-board improvements from lottery picks early in their careers. Of course, nothing will completely overshadow his glaring .071 shooting from three last season — a stat more bewildering than Terrence Malik‘s Tree of Life — or his ho-hum player efficiency among point guards, where he was 18th among regulars.*
*Side note: How was Rajon Rondo one spot behind Wall in PER last season given his supporting cast vs. what was played with in Washington?
But again, let’s talk about the sheer promise of those physical gifts. It’s why anytime you think of him, you can’t get those electric drives out of your head. Don’t let them block what he could still become, but on Wall’s birthday, here’s a look at five plays that floored us in 2012.
Jan Vesely‘s peak to date was when he made out with his girlfriend at the 2011 NBA Draft, and yet I have to believe he could have a solid, niche career in the future as the guy who trails Wall on the break. Vesely’s fast enough to keep up for a 6-10 forward and has decent hands to catch the out-of-nowhere dimes Wall is liable to drop on him, such as on April 25 against Cleveland. Most impressive is Wall’s own control, to juggle the preceding tip, corral it, then go behind the back on the bounce with the assist.